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Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine contamination raises serious concerns in Japan following the suspension of another million doses after foreign substances were found in vaccine batches. Two deaths were reported from the affected lots.

At a time when Japan in facing its worst wave of Covid-19 yet, with daily infections exceeding 25,000, driven by the Delta variant, more than 2.6 million doses have been suspended causing a slower vaccine rollout, compounding the already dire situation.

Gunma prefecture near Tokyo and the southern prefecture of Okinawa bring the latest reports of vaccine contamination.

A tiny black substance was found in a Moderna vaccine vial in Gunma, an official from the prefecture said, while in Okinawa, black substances were spotted in syringes and a vial, along with a pink material in a different syringe.

The government stated that no safety or efficacy issues had been identified and that the suspension was a precaution. The causes of death are being investigated.

“It is unlikely, in my opinion, that contamination of foreign substances led directly to sudden deaths,” said Takahiro Kinoshita, a physician and vice chair of Cov-Navi, a vaccine information group.

“If the contaminated substances were dangerous enough to cause death for some people, probably many more people would have suffered from symptoms after the vaccination.”

“However, further investigations are definitely needed to evaluate the harm of the particular doses in question.”

The contamination is a “serious problem” and there is need to investigate. However, with the rising COVID-19 cases, vaccinations should “continue with appropriate precautions,” said Nicholas Rennick, an Australian doctor practising at the NTT Medical Centre in Tokyo.

Record level of cases have resulted in shortage of critical care beds, forcing many to recuperate at home. Only 44 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated.

Japan is considering the possibility of mixing shots of AstraZeneca’s vaccine with those developed by other drug makers to speed up vaccination.

Team Eastern Interest
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